Mandla Mlangeni, Kitty Phetla, Megan-Geoffrey Prins, Amy Jephta and Gabrielle Goliath join the Standard Bank Young Artist honour roll 

SBYA2019Since its inception almost four decades ago, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award has come to be regarded as the ultimate accolade for young South African arts innovators on the cusp of greatness – and the latest list of winners proves that the creative fire that fuelled their predecessors in the 1980s burns just as fiercely in the current generation of South African arts pioneers.

The National Arts Festival announced the recipients of the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) Awards at a ceremony in Johannesburg on Wednesday night. They are Mandla Mlangeni (Jazz), Kitty Phetla (Dance), Megan-Geoffrey Prins (Music), Amy Jephta (Theatre) and Gabrielle Goliath (Visual Art).

This year marks 35 years of Standard Bank as the sponsor of these prestigious national awards and each of these exceptional young artists will receive a cash incentive, as well as a commission to premiere a new work or exhibit on the Main Programme of the 2019 National Arts Festival, taking place in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from 27 June to 7 July 2019. MESH and Standard Bank have also awarded a membership to each of the winners.

The five young artists join a long list of illustrious SBYA alumni who have attained great creative and professional heights over the years. Since 1981, SBYA winners have included Sibongile Khumalo, William Kentridge, Mbongeni Ngema, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Johnny Clegg, Vincent Mantsoe, Gregory Maqoma, Janice Honeyman, Helen Sebidi, Lara Foot, Darrell Roodt, Robyn Orlin, Jerry Mofokeng, Andrew Buckland, Sam Nhlengethwa and Marthinus Basson. 

SBYA alumni often go on to forge successful and sustainable careers in the arts. They have created work that contributes meaningfully to important national topics, often challenging the status quo in the process. Fêted on the world’s stages and screens, in international galleries and concert halls, many are still actively working in – and enriching – South Africa’s creative economy. In fact,Brett Bailey, an SBYA alumnus from 2001, currently chairs the National Arts Festival artistic committee, which has the responsibility of selecting the SBYA winners.

About the 2019 SBYA winners

    • AMY JEPHTA is a playwright who has also built a reputation as a filmmaker, activist and academic. A champion of theatre by and for women, she has been a driving force in local and global initiatives promoting opportunities for female  playwrights. Aside from her theatre work, she wrote the script for the film Ellen – The Ellen Pakkies Story and is editing a collection of plays by African women. WATCH
    • KITTY PHETLA is the senior soloist and choreographer at Joburg Ballet.  She has toured and performed extensively on stages across the globe. A career highlight was dancing The Dying Swan solo for Nelson Mandela and the Dutch royal family, but one of her most noteworthy recent performances was her Queen Modjadji-inspired Rain Dance for Cape Town, in situ at the then-parched Theewaterskloof Dam. WATCH
    • MANDLA MLANGENI is a jazz trumpeter and composer who has become a popular fixture on local and international stages since being selected for the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band in 2006. A gifted bandleader, Mlangeni has carved out a name for himself with various bands and ensembles, including the Amandla Freedom Ensemble, with which he has released two albums. WATCH
    • GABRIELLE GOLIATH is a multidisciplinary artist who is known for sensitively negotiating complex social concerns in her work, particularly relating to gender-based and sexual violence. Among this PhD candidate’s long-term performance projects is her Elegy series, where each iteration marks the absence of a woman or LGBTQI+ individual who has been raped and killed in South Africa. WATCH
    • MEGAN-GEOFFREY PRINS is a pianist whose prodigious talent was evident early on – he had performed with all South Africa’s major orchestras by the age of 14. Today, while studying for his doctorate in music in Cleveland in the US, he traverses the world as a solo performer and chamber musician, often returning home for concerts, teaching engagements and community outreach initiatives. WATCH

‘Artistic conscience of our times’

Ashraf Johaardien, the Executive Producer of the National Arts Festival, says: “There are so many young South Africans producing incredible, important work that every year the Festival’s artistic advisory committee has its work cut out when deliberating on who should win. Foremost in the committee members’ minds is how these creative upstarts have already seized the baton and taken the initiative to produce outstanding work – we are simply giving them an additional platform and an enhanced profile to reach even greater heights.

Johaardien says, “For almost 40 years, the SBYA recipients have produced work that captures the zeitgeist of our times, sometimes at the risk of incurring the ire of political or corporate power elites. They upset apple carts. They are bold and unapologetic in their creativity as they train their gaze on making sense of the here and now. They are the artistic conscience of our times, and what they reflect and refract through their lenses has the power to ignite conversations and shift perceptions, to provoke and to entertain. As we celebrate 45 years of NAF next year in the newly renamed Makhanda, we look forward to the fresh and bold insights that the 2019 crop of SBYA winners will bring.”

‘Winning team’

The 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Awards marks 35 years of Standard Bank’s sponsorship and of its partnership with the National Arts Festival, representing a winning team that shares a strong commitment to enriching South Africa’s arts landscape by giving a platform to successive generations of diverse, exciting and progressive creative voices.

Desiree Pooe, Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank, says: “Over the 35 years of Standard Bank’s sponsorship, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards have become regarded as an illustrious accolade that takes pride of place on any artist’s CV.

“We value and appreciate the prestige that the award holds in the local and international art community and take our role as sponsors very seriously. It is a great honour for us to recognise and reward these artists for their talent, and to contribute to moving their careers forward.  We continually strive to support South Africa’s creative economy by elevating their craft.”

Photo – from left: Mandla Mlangeni (jazz), Megan-Geoffrey Prins (music), Kitty Phetla (dance), Amy Jephta (theatre) and Gabrielle Goliath (visual art) are the recipients of the 2019 Standard Young Artist awards.

Previous winners

  • 1981 Richard E Grant, John Theodore, Jules van de Vijver
  • 1982 Janice Honeyman, Neil Rodger, Lindy Raizenberg
  • 1983 Paul Slabolepszy, Malcolm Payne, David Kosviner
  • 1984 Peter Schütz, Ken Leach; Standard Bank – 1820 Foundation 10th Anniversary Special Award: Lamar Crowson
  • 1985 Marion Arnold, Maishe Maponya, Sidwill Hartman
  • 1986 Andrew Buckland, Gavin Younge
  • 1987 William Kentridge, Hans Roosenschoon
  • 1988 Margaret Vorster, Mbongeni Ngema
  • 1989 Johnny Clegg, Marthinus Basson, Helen Sebidi, Gary Gordon; 1820 Foundation Special Award: Pieter-Dirk Uys
  • 1990 Robyn Orlin, Fée Halsted-Berning, Bonnie Ntshalintshali
  • 1991 Peter Ngwenya, Andries Botha, Darrell Roodt
  • 1992 Deon Opperman, Tommy Motswai, Raphael Vilakazi, Kevin Harris
  • 1993 Christopher Kindo, Sibongile Khumalo, Pippa Skotnes
  • 1994 Jerry Mofokeng, Sam Nhlengethwa, Michael Williams
  • 1995 Jane Alexander, Boyzie Cekwana, John Ledwaba, Abel Motsoadi
  • 1996 Lara Foot Newton, Trevor Makhoba, Vincent Mantsoe, Victor Masondo
  • 1997 Lien Botha, Geoffrey Hyland, Sibongile Mngoma; Standard Bank Special Award for vision, commitment and contribution: Alfred Hinkel
  • 1998 David Mudanalo Matamela, Debbie Rakusin, Bongani Ndodana, Nhlanhla Xaba, Aubrey Sekhabi
  • 1999 No awards made.
  • 2000 Zenzi Mbuli, Gloria Bosman, Alan Alborough
  • 2001 Tracey Human, Brett Bailey, Fikile Mvinjelwa, Walter Oltmann
  • 2002 Gregory Vuyani Moqoma, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Prince Kupi, Brett Murray
  • 2003 Moya Michael, Yael Faber, Dumisani Phakathi, Angela Gilbert, Berni Searle
  • 2004 Kathryn Smith, Mncedisi Shabangu, Portia Lebohang Mashigo, Tutu Puoane, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (posthumously)
  • 2005 Wim Botha, PJ Sabbagha, Andile Yenana, Mpumelelo Grootboom
  • 2006 Concord Nkabinde, Churchill Madikida, Hlengiwe Lushaba, Sylvaine Strike
  • 2007 Acty Tang, Bronwen Forbay, Shannon Mowday, Pieter Hugo, Akin Omotoso
  • 2008 Dada Masilo, Nontsikelelo ‘Lolo’ Veleko, Jaco Bouwer, Mark Fransman, Zanne Stapelberg
  • 2009 Thabo Rapoo, Kesivan Naidoo, Nicholas Hlobo, Jacques Imbrailo, Ntshieng Mokgoro
  • 2010 Mlu Zondi, Melanie Scholtz, Michael MacGarry, Samson Diamond, Janni Younge, Claire Angelique
  • 2011 Neil Coppen, Ben Schoeman, Nandipha Mntambo, Mamela Nyamza, Bokani Dyer
  • 2012 Kelebogile (Pearl) Boikanyo, Mikhael Subotzky, Princess Zinzi Mhlongo, Bailey Snyman, Afrika Mkhize
  • 2013 Fana Tshabalala, Runette Botha, Mary Sibande, Prince Lamla, Shane Cooper, Anthea Moys
  • 2014 Jahmil XT Qubeka, Nicola Elliott, Kyle Shepherd, Hasan & Husain Essop, Njabulo Madlala, Donna Kukama, Greg Homann
  • 2015 Nduduzo Makhathini, Christiaan Olwagen, Luyanda Sidiya, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Musa Ngqungwana, Athi Patra Ruga
  • 2016 Avigail Bushakevitz, Jade Bowers, Mohau Modisakeng, Siya Makuzeni, Themba Mbuli
  • 2017 Abel Salaocoe, Benjamin Jephta, Beth Diane Armstrong, Dineo Bopape, Monageng “Vice” Motshabi, Thandazile Radebe
  • 2018 Chuma Sopotela, Guy Buttery, Igshaan Adams, Jemma Kahn, Musa Hlatshwayo, Thandi Ntuli

8 November 2018: Article updated to correct Kitty Phetla’s position at Joburg Ballet.